WA Sec of State Release – The Secretary of State’s Elections Division is coordinating a three-week project to help ensure that Iraq-bound National Guard soldiers are properly registered and designated as military voters before they leave Washington in August.
Elections Division staffers, along with County Auditors’ Offices and volunteers, are working at the Yakima Training Center to help about 2,400 citizen soldiers belonging to the state’s largest National Guard unit, the 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, with their voter registration changes before they are deployed to Iraq later this year. The unit is being sent to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin next month for further training before going to Iraq.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said this project is crucial so the National Guard members have the opportunity to vote this fall. Most of these soldiers were previously classified as civilian voters. By updating their registrations to show that they are military voters, the ballots for these soldiers will be placed in the mail earlier than they would be as civilian voters.
“We want to make sure that the 81st Brigade members are able to exercise one of our country’s most sacred rights,” Reed said. “As they go to Iraq to help give Iraqis the freedom to vote, we need to make sure our soldiers have the opportunity to vote in our elections.
“They are scheduled to leave Wisconsin in October, very soon after the military ballots for the General Election go in the mail. It is quite possible that if they don’t receive their ballots in Wisconsin, it will be too late by the time the ballots catch up to them in Iraq. That’s why it’s so important to make sure these National Guard members are registered and designated as military voters so they can take part in the General Election,” Reed added.
State law requires that the latest day for mailing ballots to military or civilian overseas voters is 30 days before an election. Regular absentee and mail ballots must be placed in the mail to such voters at least 18 days before Election Day.
The voter registration project for the National Guard members began July 10 and is expected to end August 3.
“It’s crucial to take all steps possible so all of our military voters can cast their ballot, no matter where they are,” Reed said. “It doesn’t matter if our voters are located in Washington or halfway around the world; we need to ensure that their voices are heard in each election.”